A chance purchase of a caravan has led to the emotional reunion of a World War II serviceman’s medal with his wife, after it disappeared five years ago.
Barb Templar had not seen her late husband Harold’s service medal since it went missing when her home was flooded in 2011 – that was until it fell into the hands of Bamawm woman Cindy Portwine.
Ms Portwine discovered the medal in a caravan her cousin had purchased from Kangaroo Flat, and made it her mission to track down its rightful owner.
“The medal actually has a service number, so that service number was the key,” she said.
“I knew he had to be a member of an RSL somewhere.”
After hours of painstaking research including many dead ends, Ms Portwine found someone who knew how to find Harold Templar’s widow.
“I contacted historians from Burnie, Tasmania, which is where he enlisted, federal members of parliament, [checked] enrolment records, up to the last [lead] which was the RSL’s Victorian branch,” she said.
“I was able to get a contact from them of a person that was able to help me further to find his wife.”
Ms Portwine finally met up with Mrs Templar over coffee in Bendigo last week to return the medal.
“She was just super excited, I think she was a bit emotional as well, it had been a while since she had seen it and had always wondered where it was,” she said.
“It was amazing, I’d never met her before but we had a big hug and both teared up.”
Mrs Templar said she could not believe it when she got the call from Watsonia RSL member Bill Wyndham, who helped put the pair in touch, and was overwhelmed by Ms Portwine’s efforts.
“She’d even had a new ribbon put on it, she’s had it polished up and it just looks absolutely magnificent,” she said.
“She presented it and it just looked absolutely magnificent, it looked beautiful.”
Despite never having met, Mrs Templar said she recognised Ms Portwine the minute she walked in the door.
“When she walked in the door to have coffee I just looked and said ‘you’ve got to be Cindy’, she was beautiful, a beautiful family,” she said.
“Anyone who tried that hard to try and get the medal back is just a darling.”
But Ms Portwine said the medal was too important to leave to the vagaries of chance.
“It’s just such an important part of Australia’s history and I just felt that it was right to be in the right family’s hands,” she said.
“If I had one missing I’d want someone to do the same for me.”